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Terms of engagement

Like a silly novel that reached its climactic chapter far too early on in the book, the run-up to the presidential polls slated next month now has an air of anti-climax swirling around it.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2007 23:57 IST

Like a silly novel that reached its climactic chapter far too early on in the book, the run-up to the presidential polls slated next month now has an air of anti-climax swirling around it. But isn’t that how presidential polls are supposed to be — a decidedly sombre affair that is markedly different from the other democratic practice through which our Prime Ministers are chosen? Well, after the shindig over which party supports which candidate — or more important, party opinions about which candidate will just not do — for the last few weeks, the nation was suddenly witness to a different kind of pre-presidential polls affair. With the incumbent, President APJ Abdul Kalam’s announcement on Friday that he would not seek a second term, it is back to the ‘old’ face-off between the UPA-backed Pratibha Patil and the NDA’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Nobody really expected a situation where the President and the Vice-President would be fighting against each other for precious votes. Perhaps the plan was to present a tougher candidate — a more ‘saleable’ alternative, if you will — in the face of the numbers apparently shored up by Ms Patil. Perhaps, it was simply a method of the newly-formed United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) of marking its presence. But did Mr Kalam seriously consider having a go at the game? If presidential remarks are up for dissection, then it is telling that he had considered throwing in his hat if his victory was ‘certain’. Coming a few days after his reaction to the media about Ms Patil’s candidature being “fantastic, fantastic”, it shows Mr Kalam hadn’t really put his mind to standing as a candidate. The cat was set among the pigeons with his stand that he would only consider running if victory was certain. That was very unlikely and rightly Rashtrapati Bhavan announced on Friday that Mr Kalam “will not be interested in a second term”.

So the presidential elections — never quarantined from the world of politics — became a wrestling zone with potential candidates strutting around the raised ring. Now it seems that we are gearing up for a two-way contest. A clean fight is what we would expect. It’s another matter whether the politicians-as-bookies will allow it to be so.